The Art of Book Design: The Absent Minded Fairy

Margaret Vandegrift. Illustrated by E.B. Bensell. The Absent Minded Fairy. Philadelphia, Ketterlinus Printing House, 1884.

The digital scans of this book contain a bit of extra love. Many of the pages have been hand-coloured in crayon to add a flourish to the original drawings, and I find them utterly charming. My favourite is page 19 with the elephant up a tree. The artwork is Victorian in flavour and the story itself is sweet and well told. I’ve included the first page that is without artwork because the opening sentence is delightful and sets the tone for all that follows. You’ll find all of the full-sized plates below the fold. Enjoy.

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The Art of Book Design: The Cat and The Mouse: A Book of Persian Fairy Tales

Hartwell James. The Cat and The Mouse: A Book of Persian Fairy Tales. Illustrated by John R. Neill. Philadelphia, Henry Altemus Company, 1906.

I was a cat person long before I was a dog person and it’s still cat week (which I didn’t announce) so this seems like a good fairy tale choice. The book is interesting because it contains artwork from 2 different sources. The frontispiece and title story The Cat and The Mouse are illustrated by an unnamed traditional Persian artist and the remainder of the book is illustrated by John R. Neill, who is famously known for illustrating the stories of Oz.

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The Art of Book Design: Fly Away Fairies and Baby Blossoms

Louise Clarkson Whitelock. Fly Away Fairies and Baby Blossoms. New York, E.P. Dutton and London, Griffith and Farran, 1882.

The artwork in this week’s fairy tale book is typical of the Victorian period. I’m not especially fond of this style of art, but I think this book is interesting because its fairies look a lot like like cherubs. I also think the eyes of the children in the book look dull and creepy which is an unexpected bit of a laugh in a children’s fairy story book.

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The Art of Book Design: Mighty Mikko: Finnish Folk and Fairy Tales, Part1

Parker Fillmore. Mighty Mikko: Finnish Folk Tales and Fairy Tales. Illustrated by Jay Van Everen. New York : Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1922.

I’m overdue for highlighting Finnish Fairy Tales so our book this week contains a wealth of old Finnish folk stories translated for an English-speaking audience. Illustrator Jay Van Everen breathes life into the stories using graphic, modern drawings with geometric and abstract elements. There is only 1 colour plate in Mighty Mikko, but Van Everen was best known for his bright, colourful abstract paintings. Nonetheless, Van Everen’s black and white drawings for Mighty Mikko are bold and full of interest. The artist uses 2 different styles of illustration in the book – one for the first half of traditional tales and another for the second half of the book which contains the continuing saga of Mikko. Both styles are interesting and worth a good look so I’m going to break this post into 2 parts. Part 2 will be posted next Saturday.

Enjoy!

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The Art of Book Design: Tanglewood Tales

Nathaniel Hawthorne. Tanglewood Tales. Illustrated by Edmund Dulac. London, New York, Toronto; Hodder and Stoughton, 1919

This Fairy Tale Saturday we’re looking at Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Tanglewood Tales again. We’ve already looked at the 1921 edition of the book with artwork by Virginia Sterrett and today we’re looking at an earlier edition with artwork done by Edmund Dulac. Dulac was a master illustrator of books during the art nouveau period and he is considered to be one of the masters of the style.

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The Art of Book Design: Fringilla or Tales in Verse

R.D.Blackmore. Fringilla or Tales in Verse. Illustrated by Will Bradley. Cleveland. The Burrows Brothers Company, 1895.

Fringilla, Illustrated by Will Bradley. Back Cover.

Will Bradley was considered the “Dean of American Designers” during the Art Nouveau and Art Deco Periods and he was the best paid American artist of the early 20th Century. Much of Bradley’s work was for magazine covers, advertising and posters, but his illustrations for this book, Fringilla, were considered to be among his masterworks.  All the full-sized illustrations are below the fold.

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The Art of Book Design: Korean Fairy Tales

William Elliot Griffis. Korean Fairy Tales. New York, Thomas Y. Crowell Company, New York, 1922.

It’s Fairy Tale Saturday and this week our book tells tales from the country of Korea. The author, William Griffis, lived and taught in Japan for many years and wrote many serious books on Japan and Japanese Culture. Mr. Griffis was brought to Japan in 1870 to assist in the modernization of Japanese Schools. He became a respected educator and author within Japan and was twice honored with the Order of the Rising Sun – in 1907 with the Gold Rays with Rosette and in 1926 with the higher honor of Gold Rays with Neck Ribbon.

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The Art of Book Design: The Swedish Fairy Book

Klara Stroebe, ed. Translated by Frederick Martens. Illustrations by George W. Hood. The Swedish Fairy Book, New York, Frederick A. Stokes, 1921.

I really enjoyed Pasakas, the Latvian book of fairy tales sent in by rq, so I thought I’d check out some other foreign tales. There are a myriad of Swedish fairy tale books, but this edition caught  my eye. In the preface to the book the author tells us that,

 There has been no attempt to “rewrite” these charming folk-and fairy-tales in the translation. They have been faithfully narrated in the simple, naive manner which their traditional rendering demands.

The tales might be traditional, but the artwork isn’t. The cover art and interior plates are all rendered in soft, flowing watercolors more typical of the art nouveau period than the Medieval period. Enjoy! [Read more…]

The Art of Book Design: Pasakas

It’s Fairy Tale Saturday and this week we have a very special book that comes to us from our very own rq. It’s Latvian and a real departure from the fairy tales we’ve looked at so far. The pictures are very bold and some are darkly intriguing. I know you’ll enjoy it.

I don’t know Latvian so I’m including the publishing details in a photograph. I would surely botch it up if I tried to translate.

©rq, all rights reserved

I’ve attached photos of a classic Latvian family book – a large (perhaps THE) comprehensive compilation of Latvian folktales. Some are quintessentially Latvian, some are older than others, some resemble your well-known fairy-tales, and some are quite distinct and individual.

The artist is Pāvels Šenhofs, born 1924, died in 2011.

In any case, it’s a classic, and they don’t publish like they used to!

First, you have the book cover, which is a bit melodramatic.

Front cover, ©rq, all rights reserved

Back cover (with the price!) ©rq, all rights reserved

Then there is the fabric cover of the book itself-  how I knew it, as the copy we had when I was growing up did not have the cover anymore. It’s a dark green print on rough (almost canvas) textile, also the spine.

©rq, all rights reserved

©rq, all rights reserved

Then there is the inside covers, which are very traditional in style.

©rq, all rights reserved

Then some samples of the inside art: each story begins with an “illuminated” letter, drawn to look like it’s carved from wood, along with a distinctive introductory illustration, and most stories also have other line illustrations along the margins or at the end.

©rq, all rights reserved

©rq, all rights reserved

But the colour plates are simply fantastic. The stories are just as horrifyingly charming!

©rq, all rights reserved

©rq, all rights reserved

©rq, all rights reserved

©rq, all rights reserved

An extra picture for the antireligionists among us: the book has a whole series of stories about duping the local priest or pastor in a myriad of ways: as with German barons, if they’re not cast as the Devil himself, then they’re cast as the fool. And even the Devil can be tricked!

©rq, all rights reserved

The Art of Book Design: The Book of Saints & Friendly Beasts

Abbie Farwell Brown. The Book of Saints and Friendly Beasts. Illustrated by Fanny Cory. Boston, Houghton Mifflin, 1900.

A children’s book full of stories about Christian saints and their friendships with animals. The stories are very loosely based on legends, but the author has spun them into fantastic folk tales of adventure. Abbie Farwell Brown was a prolific writer and published many children’s books, including a book about the Norse Gods. I rather like the idea of making fictional stories of the saints. I think it strips them of power and makes them easier to dismiss as merely characters in a children’s book, like Cinderella or Red Riding hood.

Unlike the graphic artwork in most books about Christian saints, the illustrations in this book are charming and sweet and very typical of their time at the height of the Art Nouveu period. My favourite drawing is St. Bridget & the King’s Wolf, followed closely by the energetic Saint Keneth and the Gulls.

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The Art of Book Design: Arabian Nights

Arabian Nights. Edited by Hildegard Hawthorne, illustrated by Virginia Frances Sterrett. Philadelphia, The Penn Publishing Company, 1928.

Arabian Nights is the last book illustrated by Virginia Sterrett before her death in 1931 at the age of 30.  It was a huge undertaking for Sterrett who was quite sick with tuberculosis  and living in sanatorium at the time. The artist was able to work for only brief periods each day and the book took a total of 3 years to complete. Sterrett experienced a brief improvement in her health in 1929 and was able to return home for a time. She even began work on a new book for Penn Publishing in 1930 – Myths and Legends – but she was unable to complete the work. Many people consider Arabian Nights to be the finest work that Sterrett produced.  Enjoy!

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